The Supreme Court of the United States ruled Wednesday in favor of a high school student who was suspended from the junior varsity cheerleading team in 2017 due to vulgar social media posts.
The Associated Press reported that the court voted 8-1 in favor of Brandi Levy. The Mahanoy City, Penn., native was a 14-year-old high school freshman when she failed to make the varsity cheerleading team. She responded with Snapchat posts that included curse words and a raised middle finger.
The cheerleading team suspended her for a year, which the high court ruled violated Levy’s First Amendment freedom of speech rights.
According to CNBC, the Supreme Court said, “courts must be more skeptical of a school’s efforts to regulate off-campus speech, for doing so may mean the student cannot engage in that kind of speech at all.
“The school went too far, and I’m glad that the Supreme Court agrees,” Levy said in a statement. “I was frustrated, I was 14 years old, and I expressed my frustration the way teenagers do today. Young people need to have the ability to express themselves without worrying about being punished when they get to school.
“I never could have imagined that one simple snap would turn into a Supreme Court case, but I’m proud that my family and I advocated for the rights of millions of public school students.”
The 18-year-old Levy recently competed her first year of college. When she was a high school student told she would be a junior varsity cheerleader, she posted a pair of Snapchats. The first reportedly wrote, “F--- school f--- softball f--- cheer f--- everything,” while raising her middle finger alongside a friend.
The second Snapchat included an upside-down smiley-face emoji and read, “Love how me and [another student] get told we need a year of jv before we make varsity but tha[t] doesn’t matter to anyone else?”
Levy was suspended, her parents filed a federal lawsuit, lower courts ruled in her favor and she was reinstated. The Mahonoy Area School District appealed to the Supreme Court after the broad appellate ruling that said schools couldn’t punish off-campus student speech.
The Supreme Court justices on Wednesday did not ban schools from disciplining students for off-campus conduct.
“We do not believe the special characteristics that give schools additional license to regulate student speech always disappear when a school regulates speech that takes place off campus,” justice Stephen Breyer wrote. “The school’s regulatory interests remain significant in some off-campus circumstances.”